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Lifting 'visa cap' could help ease staff shortages at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King's Lynn

PUBLISHED: 12:28 14 June 2018 | UPDATED: 15:45 14 June 2018

Being able to recuit more non-Eu nurses could help solve staffing issues at the QEH Picture: Ian Burt

Being able to recuit more non-Eu nurses could help solve staffing issues at the QEH Picture: Ian Burt

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A Norfolk hospital hopes changes to immigration rules could help ease staff shortages.

A cap on the number of foreign medics working in the UK looks set to be eased to allow the NHS to recruit more staff.

Nationally, there are 35,000 nursing vacancies and 10,000 unfilled doctors’ posts.

The cap - introduced by Theresa May when she was home secretary - sets a limit for all non-EU skilled workers at 20,700 people a year.

But NHS bosses say the rules are making it difficult to recruit enough staff.

The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King’s Lynn has vacancies for 30 doctors and more than 100 nurses.

Senior managers believe more potential candidates would apply if the so-called visa cap were lifted.

Karen Charman, director of HR and organisational development and the QEH, said: “This is fantastic news and very welcome for us as an organisation but, more importantly, for the diverse range of staff wanting and waiting to join Team QEH.”

Chief nurse Emma Hardwick added: “We very much welcome any initiative which is going to ease the recruitment of doctors and nurses to Team QEH, which is always striving to deliver the best care possible to our community.”

Last month, it emerged nurses at the hospital worked an average of 53 hours’ overtime between January and March to stave off staff shortages. At the time there were 842 nurses in-post and 72 vacancies.

Hospital bosses say the extra cost of hiring agency nurses is partly to blame for successive overspends.

Home Secretary Sajid Javid is expected to remove non-EU doctors and nurses from the annual 20,700 “tier 2” visa limit on non-EU workers.

Earlier this month, doctors urged Mr Javid to lift the cap warning of a “desperate need” to ease pressures amid escalating patient demand.

In a letter to Mr Javid, the head of the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) said there were cases where foreign GPs had been affected by the “hostile environment” policies first introduced by Theresa May while she was at the Home Office.

The British Medical Journal has said that between December 2017 and March 2018 more than 1,500 visa applications from doctors with job offers in the UK were refused as a result of the cap.

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